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In Detroit, Women's March Offshoot Builds On Resistance To Trump Agenda

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Sarah Cwiek
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Michigan Radio

The Women's Convention in Detroit this weekend bills itself as the follow-up to the Women's March that brought massive crowds to city streets across the world the day after the president took office.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The day after President Trump's inauguration, millions of people filled streets around the U.S. and the world for the Women's March. As a feat of grassroots organizing, it was one of the most impressive in years. But the question remains if that day of protests has actually jumpstarted a real movement to resist President Trump's agenda. This weekend, a follow-up Women's Convention met in Detroit to take stock and look forward. Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek has this report.

SARAH CWIEK, BYLINE: Ingrid Shavaughn Young is a warm slight woman with an infectious laugh. After four years in prison, Young returned to her native Detroit and started rebuilding her life.

INGRID SHAVAUGHN YOUNG: I am now a journeyman millwright, and I use my income to fund my rebuilding of Detroit.

CWIEK: Young has bought, remodeled and sold a small handful of vacant homes. Like so many others, she is looking for a piece of Detroit's resurgent real estate market. But she also wants to make sure it doesn't turn into a massive outside land grab. And she wants more resources for this kind of small-scale blood-sweat-and-tears investment in the city's revitalization.

YOUNG: We already have a community who has never left Detroit, and we should be first up to redesign it.

YOUNG: Young shared her story during the Women's Convention at Detroit's Cobo Center this weekend. It's an offshoot of January's massively successful Women's March. Brooklyn-based activist Linda Sarsour is a Women's March co-leader. She says the march was a needed moment for some women and other groups who felt devastated by Trump's election.

LINDA SARSOUR: People were inspired. People were moved. We saw the potential that our country has, and we wanted to move it into action. So how do you take a march and create a movement and a moment out of it?

CWIEK: The convention features a wildly diverse range of topics, but the need for grassroots organizing is a common thread. Some prominent women politicians were there. California Congresswoman Maxine Waters spoke today. She was the inspiration behind the convention slogan - reclaiming our time. Women's March co-organizer Carmen Perez says the convention aims to bring people back...

CARMEN PEREZ: And build a agenda for 2018, right? So we want to take back Congress. And we also want women to run for office, so it's an opportunity to actually do that.

CWIEK: The convention is also timely in an unexpected way. It dovetails with public revelations about Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein's decades of predatory sexual behavior, and the #MeToo too phenomenon, where millions of women have shared stories of sexual assault and harassment on social media. Women's March co-leader Carmen Perez says they're taking bold action to build a diverse resistance movement, and that makes some people, including many women, uncomfortable.

PEREZ: There's a lot of learning to do. There's a lot of training that needs to happen. And we also need to continue to have conversations about what feminism looks like.

CWIEK: The Women's Convention drew over 4,000 participants. The hope is they leave Detroit with renewed energy and a new set of tools to use in their very different lives and communities. For NPR News, I'm Sarah Cwiek in Detroit.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.